Campaign 2001: Best Rumour Award

Frankly speaking...
Stabroek News
May 4, 2001

As frivolous as the topic might first appear, there are many elements of seriousness inherent.

The vicious and consequently lethal effect with which rumour was used, especially by ambitious power-hungry opposition forces, before, during and after the March 2001 elections campaign, resulted ultimately in violence, re-opening of racial cleavages and social mayhem.

For our purpose today, "rumour" is defined as "general talk, report or hearsay of doubtful accuracy; current, but unverified statement or assertion". Our layman's handbook would tell us of the many objectives of rumour, when used during political campaigns. Among them: to create confusion and doubt in people's minds; to misinform, mislead and deceive specific groups or the "general" public; to undermine or discredit individuals and/or institutions and to provoke particular groups to anger, aggression and violence.

Of course, whether well-organised "dirty tricks" sections in the Party's War Rooms, or just mischief-makers, the professional rumourmongers who create and spread rumour are not confident that simple voting at the polling booth on elections day would do the trick for the party of their choice or employ. Vicious rumour with evil intent has to be utilised therefore. And rumour is actively and effectively peddled best by those "credible" to their peers and subordinates. The best rumourmongers often use the media, wear ties, sound articulate, are great bluffers who don't really have the intellect, depth or knowledge they pretend to possess. In our context, the self-avowed partisan political "tele-activist" - the newscaster/anchor type or, the openly evil Idi Amin type, is (and was) the danger that promoted nasty causes through the overt and covert use of rumour.

Finally, it is this observer's strongly - held belief that rumour thrives easily in our political season and climate, because the "masses", the under-thirties and forties are largely illiterate, sub-literate, impressionable and just willing to accept that which they badly want to hear and believe. Immorally, the greatest long-term damage is being done to them through mass rallies and television "presentations".

Against that background, here are some of the "better" or most wicked rumours peddled over the last three months. By innocent, deceived spokespersons or the professional, "focused", media mischief-makers: Hundreds of ID cards were left at the Georgetown Mandela Avenue dump (Would that have disenfranchised anybody?). A curfew was to have been imposed before polling day (that was not even done afterwards, when it was virtually necessary). Thousands of guns were distributed in the Mahaica area to PPP supporters (the bigot/tele-activist-originator of this one should know just who brandished more weaponry on the East Coast Demerara recently; which group? Thousands of Afro-Guyanese were to be arrested to disenfranchise them even before March 19. The PPP had plans or the ability to "neutralise" the army (but the army's votes were assured?). There was an active airstrip aback of Enterprise, ECD (used by illegal voters?).

A significant number of MRC's was stolen from GECOM. A grounded boat off the same Enterprise foreshore had arms (for Laurie Lewis and PPP/C people!). GA 2000 was ferrying thousands of Trinis to vote for the Civic (this one was a joint venture between a "PM" and an Idi Amin of Dirty-Tricks TV). A well-known hotel, a UNDP office and Guyenterprise Advertising Agency hacked into GECOM computer (a few still hold strong to this one - a half-truth can be the most dangerously-believable rumour). Wooden ballot boxes were being made to subvert polling day procedures. Guyenterprise printed valid blank ballot sheets. Laurie Lewis was adjutant to Minister Janet Jagan in the early sixties (but wasn't he security chief at Ogle too?).

The PPP organised 'pelters' and other thugs to do violence at PPP meetings (this was one of the major insults to people's intelligence - whatever little they have). The "Indian" leaders in Trinidad, Guyana and Suriname were/are planning a union of some sort.

Four men (PNC persons) were shot dead by the enemy (wanton rumour for known objective). Indian (PPP?) activist removed statement of poll from Buxton Booth (So?). Jagdeo met Panday (so what?). There is some link between mistakes in the telephone directory and discrepancies in the electoral roll (Great stuff from a defeated Joe - not Singh). Rohee "collared" or burst Jagdeo's head (that's why the big bald patch in the President's pate?).

O.K no more! I know. If the vile use of rumour did not result in the destruction of life and property, the foregoing would have been laughable. Observe the scope, the variety and the range of the rumours; well crafted to create confusion and reaction. All to no avail. The wicked would not prosper! So which one would win the best rumour award? Who is the best rumourmonger of the past season?

Sorry to disappoint you folks. I'm not about to dignify the rascality that contributed to losers' anarchy. You may choose who or which you'd give the King Liar Trophy to. It is to be hoped too that next time you listen to some well-spoken, well-dressed tele-activist/rumour monger, you'll bear in mind their mission. And not be duped!

1) In Parliament today: Identify the ambitious self-seeking opportunists. Be proud of the genuine representatives who caused no wreckage.
2) Hello Tom, I salute you in the spirit of Indian friendliness on the occasion of tomorrow's Arrival Anniversary. Quietly proud to be Indian, many of those tenants will be glad to maintain your "Guyana House"
3) At Tuesday's GTUC solidarity rally, each side demonstrated their individual solidarity on stage. And the teachers must have certainly inspired their students.
4) Festus Brotherson Jnr wrote about "slow fire, mo fire, crossfire, cease-fire". Then named the political fire chief.
5) Needed: A new Director of Public Prosecutions.
6) Dialogue, healing and reconciliation mean no charges to be laid for anything? Against the known perpetrators? Crime was all part of legitimate protests by the disenfranchised and the marginalised? Hooray for brutal political bullyism! "There will be no Guyana", the man warns.
7) Economic criminals get off Scot-free!
8) The President who lost his shoe will triumph. Again?
9) Coming next week: Guyana's Urban Guerilla handbook - A Guide to Protester Programmes.
10) Where were those African Bees when they were really needed?
'Til next Week!